Who Controls This Situation?

†††††††† Many stories have two people that are in conflict with one another but what about that overlooked third party. In the book Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily BrontŽ and filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, there was sweet Nelly (Flora Robson), who ended up telling the family business to a stranger, Lockwood (Miles Mander). Catherine of Henry Jamesís 1880 Washington Square, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress, by William Wyler, had her Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins). Finally when the governess needed someone to talk to in Henry Jamesís 1898 The Turn of the Screw, filmed as The Innocents in 1961 by Jack Clayton, she turned to Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins). None of these women were the main character, but they shaped the story.

†††††††† Nelly and Mrs. Grose were both servants that were trusted by the families that they worked for. All three of these women--Nelly, Mrs. Gross, and Aunt Lavania--were huge influences in the lives of the main characters. Nelly was the only person to whom Catherine (Merle Oberon) would express her love of Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier). Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) only openly talks to her Aunt about her father (Ralph Richardson) and Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift). She has a hard time talking to anyone else, even her father. In the third work, Mrs. Grose is the person that encourages the governess, Miss Giddens in the movie, as played by Deborah Kerr, in her visions of ghosts.

†††††††† Both Nelly and Aunt Lavinia had a strong passion for pushing their respective Catherines to their lovers. Nelly heard Catherineís confession of love for Heathcliff and told her to run after him in the night. She never lost hope that those two would end up together even after Catherineís death. Aunt Lavinia forced Catherine to engage in conversation with Morris Townsend. Aunt Lavinia continually left Catherine and Morris alone together even though she was supposed to be chaperoning.

†††††††† None of these stories would have been the same if these older women had not been in the stories. If Nelly had just let Catherine express her love for Heathcliff in her own time, he would have never overheard the conversation in which Catherine had said he was beneath her. If Aunt Lavina had not pushed Catherine to be a social butterfly, maybe she would have grown into her confidence. Catherine and her father would have never ended things the way they did if her Aunt would have minded her own business. Finally if Mrs. Grose had not encouraged the governess that the ghosts she was seeing were former employees, Miss Jessel and Peter Quint (Clytie Jessop and Peter Wyngarde) maybe the governess would have taken better care of the children, Flora and Miles (Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens) as regular beings instead of being obsessed with their possible ghostly possession or even quit earlier and allowed someone else to care for the children.

Maggie McKay

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